Ben Affleck will be Batman in the new Superman film (or whatever it is Snyder’s making since the title is still a mystery). This post will be one of 1,438 you will read just today on this topic so I’ll try and be brief especially since I fulminated plenty on Twitter last night.
I like Ben Affleck and have since Chasing Amy. He’s a good actor, charismatic, funny and intelligent. Chasing Amy director Kevin Smith thinks Affleck is so gifted he could play the shark in a remake of Jaws. That’s perhaps a bridge too far but I could definitely see him playing Chief Brody.
The truth is, he’s not utilized well in big films that are more about plot than character. Affleck can carry a film easily but what he does well is character work with a movie star’s bearing. A few compare and contrasts in which Affleck is a lead:
Chasing Amy, Good Will Hunting, Dogma, Bounce, Jersey Girl, Changing Lanes, Hollywoodland, The Company Men, The Town, Argo
Armageddon, Forces of Nature, The Sum of all Fears, Reindeer Games, Daredevil, Paycheck
(The one exception to the above theory seems to be Surviving Christmas. And while Gigli seems to be a smaller film the reasoning behind its creation was certainly high-concept. )
A few of the movies in the first list are not good films – Jersey Girl, for example – but he’s still good in them – which further makes my point and puts the lie to the notion that what matters more in the new Batman film will be the script or the directing. You need someone right for the role. Did people object to Michael Keaton and Heath Ledger in previous Batman films? Yes. But the films they were in played to their strengths, ultimately.
In bigger films, Affleck’s asked to be a movie star with a square-jawed, everyman style. In smaller films, he’s given character work and asked to fill the screen with his movie star presence. In the former, there seems to be a belief that because of Affleck’s charisma you can stick him in any lead role in a film, that you can make him the shark in Jaws if you want and it will work. This belief has not been borne out in experience.
“But wait,” you say! “What if, as with Keaton and Ledger, Snyder makes a movie that plays to Affleck’s strengths?” Snyder’s Man of Steel – a film I really disliked – was big with an emphasis on plot, not character.* He’s not employed to make subtle character-driven films, he’s asked to make big, splashy movies. Exactly the kind of films Affleck gets lost in. And it suggests the filmmakers believe their film is more about its component parts than the overall story.
Hey, it could be worse! They could have finally decided to make a Wonder Woman movie and cast Katy Perry.
* If you don’t believe me think back to when everyone thinks Jenny Olson is buried under rubble near the end of the movie…don’t remember that? This is my point. The movie makes a really big deal about it as if she’s a character we’ve grown to love through the film even though it hasn’t put in the time with her character to earn it. It just happens so we’re supposed to care.
** I still think the whole Superman vs. Batman thing is overblown and the Batman appearance is going to be a mere cameo in a film that’s all about Superman. The lack of a title in yesterday’s press release seems to point to this but I could be wrong.